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Australian helps validate dinosaur footprint find in Chinese restaurant

Dr Anthony Romilio has been part of a team that validated fossilised dinosaur footprints in China. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Dr Anthony Romilio has been part of a team that validated fossilised dinosaur footprints in China. Photo: AAP

He’s helped discover giant meat-eater prints on the ceiling of a mine in Toowoomba, ‘upright’ crocodiles in South Korea and the world’s tiniest dinosaur tracks.

And now Australia’s very own, slightly more specialised version of Indiana Jones has been part of a team that has validated the fossilised footprints of several dinosaur footprints in China.

Anthony Romilio from University of Queensland’s Dinosaur Lab said the discovery was made last year by a curious diner.

“This person noticed around a dozen regularly spaced pits in the ground in the outdoor courtyard of the Garden Restaurant in Sichuan Province,” Dr Romilio said.

“It turns out they are the 50 to 60cm-long fossilised footprints of the long-necked sauropod dinosaur that lived in the Cretaceous period around 100 million years ago.

“This is a really exciting find because it shows that important dinosaur tracks can be found in unexpected places.”

The ‘pits’ were observed in the 1950s but were covered over by the then home owner to make the ground more level.

The home’s new owners converted it into a restaurant about three years ago, and the pits were uncovered again.

But it wasn’t until mid-2022 when an observant diner pointed out that they might be something more than holes in the ground.

The scientists estimate the ‘restaurant dinosaurs’ to have been about 10 metres long.

“We compared the size of the footprints with complete fossil skeletons,” Dr Romilio said.

“We also know the dinosaurs were taking quite short steps for such a large animal, with a walking speed of around two kilometres per hour.”

Dr Romilio said the research highlights the importance of everyday people making valuable scientific discoveries.

“It’s a testament to the value of being curious about our surroundings and paying attention to the world around us,” he said.

“For some lucky people discoveries can come from unlikely places – even while you’re having a bite to eat.”

Associate Professor Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing) said the region has no skeletal record of dinosaurs, so the fossilised tracks provide invaluable information about the types of dinosaurs that lived in the area.

-AAP

Topics: China
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